Get to Know Buckhead Diner General Manager, Michael Clarke!Walk into the Buckhead Diner, and there are a few things you’ll notice almost immediately. Surprising, unique décor. The mouth-watering smell of classic comfort food wafting through the air. Timeless elegance & charm. Most of all, though, you’ll find yourself captivated by the friendly, familiar faces of the Diner’s team. Lately, you may have noticed a new face floating about from table to table, touting a welcoming smile and a noticeable charisma. Some have gotten to know him already, but we thought it was time to introduce (or, re-introduce) Buckhead Life veteran and new General Manager, Michael Clarke. We sat down with him to talk all things Buckhead Diner – past, present and future.
- You’re new to the Diner, but not to Buckhead Life. What’s your history?
14 years ago, my wife Heather and I moved to Atlanta from Rhode Island so I could attend Luther Rice Seminary – I had the hopes of, one day, being the pastor of a church. It was during my first year of Seminary that I met Sam Than, who, at that point was the General Manager of Pano’s & Paul’s. Sam hired me as a waiter at Pano’s and Paul’s and has since become one of my closest friends. I worked for Sam and Chef Gary Donlick for two wonderful years. After cutting my teeth at Pano’s and Paul’s, I transferred to another Buckhead Life restaurant, Chops Lobster Bar. Chops’ General Manager, Kevin Brown, gave me a chance to work behind the bar. It was behind the bar at Chops that I grew the most as a hospitality professional. I had the opportunity to bartend for almost eight years with the best group of bartenders I’ve ever worked with. It was an incredible time in my professional life and I learned so much from the entire team. I left the Buckhead Life family in 2013 for another position, but when the opportunity to come back home presented itself, I jumped at the chance.
- What’s your favorite part of being a GM?
I love people, and I love being an influencer of good in people’s lives. My Grandfather always told me, “All things being equal, people will choose to do business with friends.” With those words in mind, I’ve made it my life’s work to try and make as many friends as possible. Every day as the GM of the Buckhead Diner, I get the opportunity to make new friends. Whether they be guests coming in to dine, prospective employees coming in for a job, or vendors coming in to sell a good or service, every interaction with every person is an opportunity to make a new friendship. In the end, all that we have of true, lasting value are our memories, our friends, and our faith.
- What’s your favorite aspect of working at Buckhead Diner?
The people of Atlanta and all over the world have made wonderful memories at the Buckhead Diner over the past thirty years. I have the great honor to preserve the wonderful memories of the past generations while continuing to make new memories for our current and future generations. I love being the caretaker of the greatest restaurant in Atlanta.
- What do you think makes the Diner so special to our guests?
The long history of the Diner, the wonderful memories of the past, the stellar, one-of-a-kind decor, the exceptional hospitality and service, and the consistently tremendous food served in a warm and inviting ambiance.
- Build us your perfect Buckhead Diner meal.
I’d start off with a Triple Chocolate Shake and a Diet Coke.
First Course: “Sweet-Heat” Thai Chili Calamari
Second Course: Little Gem Lettuce & Avocado Salad
Main Course: Hanger Steak & Fries
Dessert: Warm Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream and a triple espresso
- What’s your favorite Diner shake?
The Triple Chocolate Shake. Chocolate ice cream, a heavy dose of chocolate syrup in the shake, and the glass filled with chocolate syrup before they pour the shake in.
(Yes, I love chocolate.)
- When you’re not at Buckhead Diner, what are you doing?
I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Heather, for the past 19 years. She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. When I’m not at work, I’m either spending time with her or our kids: Noah, aged 14; Abby, aged 10: Gabe, aged 3; and our Weimaraner puppy, Rosie. Family is everything!
- What are you most excited about for the Diner now & in the future?
The thing that has and will always make the Diner great is its people. We have great people working with us – some who have been at the Diner for 10, 20, even 25 years! – people who care and take great pride in what they do. I am most excited to work with such a fantastic group of hospitality professionals.